Category Archives: Asia

A trip to Bangladesh: Sylhet and Dhaka

After ten long years, the opportunity arose for me to visit Bangladesh again.  Even though I’d visited many times as a child, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect this time.  Turns out I had nothing to worry about.  I love the hustle and bustle of Bangladesh.  There is something very beautiful, real and raw about this country.

I noticed that there was a lot of construction and development going on everywhere.  Bangladesh is the kind of place where you still buy your fresh fish and chicken from the markets, or from a man passing through the residential areas.  This is one of the things I always appreciated since I was young – seeing a live animal being killed and knowing where the meat on my plate came from.  This might seem cruel or gross, but in the Western world it is easy to forget our chicken wings came from a live animal.  It is a reality that I wish more people could witness to understand and appreciate that there is a life before our plates.

I went on a day trip to a beautiful place called ‘Rattar Gul’.  It’s a river area that was about 1-2 hours drive from Sylhet.  We rode on a little wooden canoe through the mangroves with two boys paddling.  It was scenic and beautiful.  We stopped at a watch tower and took the steps to the top to see the wonderful views.

P1020197

For me, the food in Bangladesh is amazing.  There is a dish called ‘poochka’ or ‘pani puri’ which is little hollow round crisp shells filled with chickpeas and tamarind sauce is added on top.  Lovely.  And for some reason, Chinese food in Bangladesh is phenomenal.  Foreign food in restaurants everywhere is often catered to the local customers, so the Chinese food in Bangladesh often has extra spices added to it and it tastes delicious.  I even found a Pizza Hut in Dhaka that was tastier than Pizza Hut in the UK!

Dhaka is the capital and notorious for its bad traffic nowadays, but it’s not really the end of the world.  I visited Jamuna Future Park, which is a HUGE modern shopping mall and also where I found Pizza Hut.  It’s so big that I couldn’t cover it all in a couple of trips and it would be easy to get lost.  It is good for people who fancy some modern shopping with fixed price tags instead of haggling at markets.

I visited some of the University campuses just to have a look around and ate at some great restaurants.  That always makes me happy!  Bangladesh is a great place to explore and there are some other areas like Chittagong and Cox’s Bazaar that I would have liked to see as well.  That may need to be saved for another trip.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Bangladesh, Travel

A wonderful trip to Thailand – The North and Chiangmai tour

September 2016

In my mind, I was going to Asia for four or five months to travel around Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and any other countries in Asia I decided to add along the way.

In reality, a three week trip to Asia was much more convenient and affordable, and also a good compromise given I’d spent six months in Costa Rica and was wrapping up my travels.

The actual plan was to spend two weeks in Thailand and one in Malaysia.  Thailand has been very high on my ‘to visit’ list, mainly because I love Thai food.

As I was travelling solo, I decided to join a tour for the first week followed by a week in Bangkok.  This post is about the first week with the tour.

dsc_0024

Street markets

I had a look at various tours and settled on the Bangkok to Chiangmai Express tour with G Adventures.  I hadn’t used this company before, but a couple of friends recommended them, the price was reasonable compared to other tours, there was no hill trekking or mandatory cycling (not my cup of tea) and I liked the varied itinerary that included multiple places, nice hotels, a floating raft house and an overnight train.  Exciting!!

I arrived in Bangkok on a Monday morning in September, the same day the tour was starting.  Luckily I was able to check in early to the hotel after my 15 hour flight from London, so I had a few hours of sleep and woke up in time to have a wander around the area and grab something to eat before the introductory meeting in the evening.  The tour guide and our group of ten tourists seemed friendly enough.  We went out for dinner together and called it a night for an early start the next day.

DSC_0035.jpg

Cooked rats

I should point out that September is the rainy season.  In an ideal world, this trip would be in November during the best weather.  However, having lived through a rainy season in Costa Rica, I know there are a lot of perks to rainy season.  Flights are cheaper, there are fewer tourists around and the weather is generally cooler.  After all, a bit of rain isn’t going to ruin my holiday!  It did rain pretty much every day, but usually only once or twice for an hour or so in the late afternoon or evening.

The tour started in Bangkok and we worked our way north via private van and an overnight train.

Most of our travels were in air conditioned vans, which was great with our luggage in the hot and humid weather.  We stopped at little cafe style restaurants for lunch and dinner that provided decent and cheap meals.  For me, all of the food was amazing and delicious. I’m a fan of spice and it was hard not to find a flavoursome dish at every place.  And I was thrilled that a meal usually cost less than 80 baht (£2 or $3).

We visited so many different places. In Bangkok we visited the Wat Pho giant Buddha.  Our guide explained a lot of history about every place we visited.

 

DSC_0019.jpg

Bridge on the River Kwai

One of my favourite parts of the trip was the raft house.  I had imagined we’d be staying in a wooden hut on stilts in the water.  The raft house was actually a little white house-ship that was docked at the side of a lake.  It was not luxurious, and it was definitely different.  The real surprise was that a  motor boat connected to the raft house and pulled the whole thing along the lake!  We all sat on the deck and enjoyed the ride.  We ‘parked’ along the lakeside on the mountainous side and the motor boat left us.  This was our isolated stop until the morning.  I hopped in a canoe with three new tourist friends and we paddled around a couple of bends.  The views were amazing.  Our canoe was precariously balanced with four of us, which added to the fun. I’m pleased to say there was no tipping over.  Some of the others had a swim in the warm water before dinner, which was served at an open table and delivered to us by a motor boat. It was a quiet and relaxing evening, and I loved sleeping in a floating house!

DSC_1310.jpg

A raft house being pulled along the lake

DSC_1322.jpg

Beautiful morning views

There were a lot of beautiful temples and ruins on our agenda.  I liked the places we stayed at and breakfast was included everyday.  Sometimes we had time to explore on our own or relax.

The overnight train was an interesting experience, and one I was glad to have the guidance of our tour guide!

Another highlight was the cooking class that I signed up to in Chiangmai.  We visited a local market to buy fresh ingredients before going to the cooking school to make spring rolls, green curry, tom yum soup and pad thai.  I was really impressed by how easy it all seemed (of course it helped that the school pre-prepped a lot of things for us!). I actually feel I could make all of these dishes again.

DSC_0121.jpg

Meat market

DSC_0136.jpg

Cooking the best Tom Yum soup

DSC_0141.jpg

Also in Chiangmai, some of us in the group went to a ladyboy cabaret show, which was a lot of fun.  It consisted of beautiful ladyboys dressed in cabaret style outfits, feathers and all, performing dance routines to classic hits like ‘it’s raining men’. There was a great atmosphere and everything was in good jest.

The tour finished on a Sunday morning and I decided to stay an extra night in Chiangmai before heading back to Bangkok by train.  I had a great time at the Sunday night market which had a variety of items on sale and amazing food stalls.

In a country that feels so ‘foreign’ – different language, culture and food – the tour was a really nice and safe introduction to Thailand. I appreciated the good company and having someone to ‘hold my hand’ when going to restaurants, tourist sites and using tuktuks for the first time.

I did go on to spend another week in Bangkok which was really fun and felt like a breeze to get around on my own after a week with the tour.

Leave a comment

Filed under Thailand, Travel